1906: Making Progress

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Redirected from 1906)
Jump to: navigation, search
Making Progress
I started off with countless problems. But now I know, thanks to COUNT(), that I have "#REF! ERROR: Circular dependency detected" problems.
Title text: I started off with countless problems. But now I know, thanks to COUNT(), that I have "#REF! ERROR: Circular dependency detected" problems.

[edit] Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Still needs work - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Megan has procrastinated made progress on a large backlog of problems. While she started the day with lots of problems, she has entered those problems into a spreadsheet. While this could potentially allow her to tackle her problems in a more organized way and fix them more quickly, the humor lies in that none of the problems have actually been solved. Additionally, it's questionable whether this was worth the hours of effort she put into making the spreadsheet, and even whether the spreadsheet has made her problems any easier to tackle in the first place.

In the title text she reveals that even her spreadsheet has a problem, because "#REF Circular Dependency detected" is a spreadsheet error meaning that a formula is (possibly indirectly) using its own cell in the equation. This is because she has used the Count() function to find the number of problems to be solved, but since one of those problems is not knowing how many problems she has, it is trying to include itself in the count.

This counting problem may also be a metaphor for circular dependencies within the problems themselves, such that a solution to one problem would help solve another problem, but solving the first problem depends on a solution to the second problem. (Example: Organizing a cluttered mess of objects requires room to work, which is not available because of all the clutter.)

Arguably, this has introduced a further problem, so she actually now has (#REF Circular Dependency detected)+1 problems. It's also possible, since Megan has chosen to interpret the error message as a numeric value representing the number of problems she has, that she simply is not good at using her spreadsheet software, which may be another problem that needs adding to her list. The use of COUNT() has, rather than returning an exact amount of problems to solve, implied that her original problems cause so many more that she does indeed have "countless problems".

[edit] Transcript

[Megan is sitting and looking at a laptop.]
Megan: I started the day with lots of problems.
Megan: But now, after hours and hours of work,
Megan: I have lots of problems in a spreadsheet.


comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!

Discussion

What about "countless" and "COUNT()" in the title text? I think that's a pun... User:Nobody at 1 January 1970 12:00 AM UTC

Not really, rather that is the purpose of "COUNT()" function, when you are not sure how numerous something is. --Trimutius (talk) 22:11, 23 October 2017 (UTC)

The pun is that "countless" means they can't be counted, and the error message from the Count() function implies that the problems couldn't be counted. 108.162.215.106 22:33, 23 October 2017 (UTC)

I agree that both the countless, the use of count and the fact that it failed is important, and this is currently not explained in the title text explanation. Hope someone with more familiarity with spreadsheets will try to make a good explanation of this --Kynde (talk) 11:51, 24 October 2017 (UTC)

The COUNT() function only works on rows or columns of values rather than text. So if the problems are listed in a spreadsheet, likely as text, the COUNTA() function would really be the correct one...

Also, COUNT() won't provide an error in Excel, simply a 0 result (though a warning box is shown). Google Sheets produces the content of the title text. 172.68.253.41 02:41, 25 October 2017 (UTC)
In Excel you can include the formula in the count by checking 'Enable iterative calculation' under options-formulas 162.158.167.198 05:54, 25 October 2017 (UTC)
Personal tools
Namespaces

Variants
Actions
Navigation
Tools

It seems you are using noscript, which is stopping our project wonderful ads from working. Explain xkcd uses ads to pay for bandwidth, and we manually approve all our advertisers, and our ads are restricted to unobtrusive images and slow animated GIFs. If you found this site helpful, please consider whitelisting us.

Want to advertise with us, or donate to us with Paypal?